NAGPUR: When it was confirmed that big stars like PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth will be part of the line-up at the senior badminton nationals, it created a lot of buzz.
That there is no entry fee for spectators to the event held at Mankapur Indoor Stadium was expected to bring in good crowds. Though the venue with a capacity of 6500 cannot boast of a packed house, officials are confident this season will set a precedent for bigger nationals.
The stars were in action for the first time on Monday and brought with them a long-lost sparkle to the championship. The icing on the cake for the fans was the fact that the pre-quarters and the quarters were held on the same day, which meant the players they came to watch played two matches each.
“Since the big names are back in the nationals, next year’s hosts might be able to organise a bigger and better tournament, in terms of TV broadcast rights,” opined Maharashtra Badminton Association president Arun Lakhani.
By the time it ends on Wednesday, 22,000 schoolchildren would have attended the week-long event. Invited by the state association, they form an overwhelming majority of fans.
“One of our main targets is to inspire schoolchildren to take up the sport. And I think we have achieved that. There might be the next Sindhu or Saina (Nehwal) in this crowd. All it takes is inspiration,” felt Lakhani.
When asked about the lesser-than-expected number of spectators, Lakhani replied, “The signs are positive. Today, the numbers increased and it will continue to do grow till the final day. Our aim is to elevate the level of this championship.”
While the return of stars might prove to be a boon for national-level players, who do not often get to face such quality of competition, only time will tell whether the stars return every year.
Praneeth stunned, others cruise
World No 16 B Sai Praneeth was knocked out by Subhankar Dey (World No 67) in the quarters. The duo were the last ones playing on court, as the encounter lasted 74 minutes with Dey winning 13-21, 21-18, 22-20.
“I knew it would an intense battle. Sai Praneeth was leading for most of the match, but I did not think about winning or losing. I just kept pushing myself,” Subhankar said after the match. Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Srikanth and HS Prannoy advanced to the semifinals.
Men’s quarterfinals: HS Prannoy (PSPB) bt P Kashyap (PSPB) 22-20, 21-19; Lakshya Sen (Utk) bt Ajay Jayaram (PSPB) 15-10 (retd); K Srikanth (PSPB) bt Shubham Prajapati (MP) 21-17, 23-21; Subhankar Dey (Rlys) bt B Sai Praneeth (PSPB) 13-21, 21-18, 22-20. Women’s quarterfinals: Saina Nehwal (PSPB) bt Aakarshi Kashyap (AAI) 21-17, 21-10; G Ruthvika Shivani (PSPB) bt Ch Sai Uttejita Rao (AAI) 21-14, 21-8; Anura Prabhudesai (AAI) bt Saili Rane (Rlys) 21-19, 21-9; PV Sindhu (AP) bt Shriyanshi Pardeshi (MP) 21-11, 21-17.